Leveraging Fintechs to Do More with Less

Fintech is often viewed as a disrupter to the banking industry, but it greatest influence may be as a collaborator.

Financial technology companies, often called fintechs, can provide benefits both banks and themselves, especially when it comes to lending. But banks need to be prepared for the potential challenges that can arise when forming and executing these partnerships.

Partnerships between community banks and fintechs makes sense. For community banks, the cost of building or buying their own online loan origination platform can be prohibitive. A partnership with a fintech can help banks achieve more with less risk.

Banks can partner with fintechs to improve services at a significantly lower capital expenditure, reducing the cost of doing business and reaching market segments that would otherwise not meet their credit criteria. Collectively, these relationships advance not only the business of community banks, but also their mission.

Partnering with banks offers fintech firms brand exposure, allows them to more quickly scale their business and increases their access to capital and liquidity, which can translate to better company returns.

Community banks and fintech firms should be natural allies, given the market dynamics and growth in online lending, the underfunding of small businesses and the increased competition facing smaller institutions.

Community banks are also ideal first movers in the bank-fintech partnership space, given the personal nature of the business, low cost of capital and ability to move quicker than regional banks. Community banks are the preferred source of funding for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and consistently receive high marks from clients for customer service and overall experience.

However, there can be challenges. Bank respondents cited their firms’ overall preparedness as a point of concern when considering a fintech collaboration, according to a recent paper on bank-fintech partnerships from law and professional services firm Manatt. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau mandate that banks must implement appropriate oversight and risk management processes for third-party relationships and service providers.

Other issues that could arise for community banks when pursuing a fintech partnership include data security, staff training and technology integration with legacy systems. It’s imperative that community banks are clear about the responsibilities, requirements and protections that will contribute toward a successful partnership in conversations with a fintech firm.

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Despite their desire to fund local businesses, community banks sometimes encounter significant pressures that prevent them from doing so. These issues are amplified by various market forces and longstanding structural inefficiencies such as consolidation, slower economic expansion, increased regulation and more-stringent credit requirements. Consumer expectations around new channels and banking services compound the situation. Community banks need to adapt to this new dynamic and complex ecosystem. Without a strategy that includes technological vision, banks risk becoming irrelevant to the communities they serve.

Fintech firms — reputed as industry disruptors — can be powerful collaborators and allies in this land grab. They can help banks expand their borrower market by reaching customers with alternative credit profiles and providing technology-driven improvements that enhance the customer experience. The inherent advantages held by community banks make them well positioned to not only capitalize on these opportunities, but to lead the next wave of fintech innovation.

5 Critical Components for Construction Lending Success


lending-12-31-18.pngThe tough reality is that bankers are experiencing margin compression due to the current state of the yield curve and rising interest rates.

Without refinances to process, and new mortgages growing rarer, they must rely on other types of loan products. Enter construction loans.

Construction lending was once a vital part of a healthy loan product mix. Of course, many bankers will point directly at TRID, or the Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rules, as their roadblock to originating construction loans. Support for TRID, like many other regulatory rules, hasn’t been prevalent in the industry, and some bankers don’t have the information they need to mitigate risk.

So what now? Who is offering support for these regulations? And how can lenders begin construction lending again?

Instead of giving up on construction lending, most community banks have all the resources they need to start and maintain a successful construction lending program; it’s all at their fingertips.

To become successful in construction lending, you need these five components to all work together:

1. Support in the C-suite and boardroom
Before looking at solutions, your board must have a consensus on whether or not to even launch the program. Construction lending programs require effort from several C-level executives and the board. Everyone in the C-suite and boardroom need to be on the same page. Having this consensus helps assemble and maintain a successful program.

2. Your Loan Origination System (LOS)
Sometimes lenders don’t know where to begin with a construction loan program, particularly with respect to staying compliant with TRID. It can surprise lenders that the fields and forms required to support construction loans may be available through their LOS. Work with your LOS provider to diagnose how other lenders have utilized the LOS platform when offering construction loan products, particularly the production of the lender’s estimate (LE) and closing document (CD). If your LOS solution does not support construction loans, there are other workarounds in order to still reach the end goal, such as using a document service provider.

3. Specialized document service provider
Mitigating risk and pleasing all who are involved in a construction loan isn’t easy given how many moving parts are involved. It can be done with the proper resources. Document service providers are one of the most important elements to have. The provider gives lenders the specific form needed for each step of the project, no matter if the project is down the street or across state lines.

Before you sign on with any document service provider, make sure of three things:

  • They are able to produce both the LE and CD, particularly if your LOS doesn’t provide them. 
  • They are able to provide the state-specific documents that are going to be needed in the closing package.
  • They are able to guarantee that their documents will protect your first lien priority in each state.

4. In-house subject matter expert
Before the financial crash 10 years ago, construction loan expertise was abundant. But a decade after the recession, experts on construction lending can be difficult to find inside the bank. Finding or recruiting somebody like this on your team can be an amazing resource. They can be helpful in educating other lenders and assist in problem-solving loan structuring to benefit the entire company.

5. Post-close draw management and servicing
How do you manage the cost and process involved after you close that construction loan? Loan servicing is an integral piece of construction lending, and it is very hands-on and specific. Once the loan is closed, someone must be servicing this loan to ensure success for the duration of the construction loan: managing first lien priority, draw administration, inspections, and communication with key stakeholders such as the borrower and contractors. At the end of the day, you need someone to manage the lenders’ holdback, while simultaneously protecting the physical, financial, and legal interests of your bank.

CECL Will Result in a Sizable Capital Hit for U.S. Banks


CECL-6-8-18.pngWhile a new reserve methodology is far from popular among U.S. banks, it could prepare them for the next economic downturn.

The banking industry has bemoaned the new provision largely due to its complexity. The current expected credit loss model, or CECL, will require banks to set aside reserves for lifetime expected losses on the day of loan origination, resulting in a sizable hit to capital at adoption.

S&P Global Market Intelligence has developed a scenario estimating CECL’s capital impact to the banking industry in aggregate as well as community banks — institutions with less than $10 billion in assets. The upfront reserve build that will come with CECL adoption could allow banks to better withstand a downturn, which could begin when banks adopt the methodology in 2020.

But, we don’t expect banks to take the change in stride and believe institutions will respond with higher loan prices and slower balance sheet expansion.

CECL becomes effective for many institutions in 2020 and will mark a considerable shift in practice. Banks currently set aside reserves over time, whereas the new provision requires them to substantially increase their allowance for loan losses on the date of adoption.

Given the capital hit, S&P Global Market Intelligence believes the industry’s tangible equity-to-tangible assets ratio could fall to 8.25 percent in 2020, assuming uniform adoption of CECL by all banking subsidiaries at that time. That level is 127 basis points below the projected capital if banks continue operating under the existing incurred loss model.

We expect a much more manageable capital hit for community banks, which could see their tangible-equity-to-tangible assets ratio fall to 11.13 percent in 2020, 50 basis points below the projected capital level for those institutions if they maintained the existing incurred loss model.

We assume that CECL reserves would match charge-offs over the life of loans. For the banking industry, we assumed the loan portfolio had an average life of three and half years, while assuming an average life of four and half years for community banks, based on the current loan composition of both groups of institutions.

The expected level of charge-offs stems from our longer-term outlook for credit quality. While improving sentiment among consumers and businesses should support relatively strong asset quality in 2018, credit standards should begin to slip in 2019 as banks compete more aggressively to win new business. Competition should increase because economic growth is not expected to be quite strong enough to create sufficient opportunities for banks to lever the additional capital created by tax reform.

Changes in the competitive environment could coincide with regulatory relief efforts. The Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress have pushed to soften many rules passed in the aftermath of the credit crisis and the rolling back of regulations could invite further easing of underwriting standards. This would occur as interest rates increase, leading to a more expensive debt service and pushing some borrowers to the brink.

Even with those headwinds, community banks should once again maintain stronger credit quality than their larger counterparts. Community banks have greater exposure to real estate and while valuations have risen considerably since the depths of the credit crisis, there are reasons to believe smaller institutions’ credit quality will hold up far better through the next downturn.

The lack of a housing bubble and massive overbuilding in the residential real estate sector as well as heightened regulatory scrutiny over elevated commercial real estate lending concentrations should help prevent history from repeating itself.

The impact of CECL should also encourage banks to raise rates on newly-originated loans, particularly longer-dated real estate credits that will require a larger reserve build under the provision. We think that loan growth will be slower than it would have otherwise been as banks with thinner capital ratios hoard cash and work to rebuild their capital bases.

If the credit cycle bottoms several years after CECL’s adoption, the new accounting provision might work as intended. Banks will have set aside considerable reserves well ahead of a downturn and pull forward losses, meaning their earnings will be stronger when credit quality reaches a low point.

However, if losses peak as the industry implements the new reserving methodology, the hit to capital could prove even more severe and leave banks on weaker ground to weather a downturn.

Five Benefits to Automating the Credit Process


automation-5-29-18.pngAutomation is a common buzzword these days in the financial services industry. What does it really mean for your business, and how far can you take automation through your credit origination process?

We have compiled the top five benefits of applying automation throughout your credit process.

  1. Reduce back and forth client interactions
    Instead of scanning, emailing, and faxing financial information and supporting documentation, customer-facing interactive portals and APIs can facilitate digital capture of required information.
  2. Eliminate unnecessary manual work
    By leveraging a portal that connects to the borrower’s financial accounting package, and has the technology to read tax forms digitally, you can reduce the amount of unnecessary manual data entry.
  3. Make quicker and smarter decisions
    Through the application of innovative machine-learning technology, the time required to generate financial spreads can be significantly reduced.
  4. Maintain high-quality data accuracy and governance
    Data integrity can potentially be compromised when several systems are used to store the same information. Turn-key integration between your customer engagement portal and loan origination system helps to keep all your data within one system.
  5. Gain a complete view of your portfolio
    With improved accuracy and quick access to available data comes better and faster insights into your portfolio. By reducing the need to consolidate and reconcile data from multiple sources, problems within your portfolio can be addressed in real time.

In a recent whitepaper, Maximize Efficiency: How Automation Can Improve Your Loan Origination Process, Moody’s Analytics explores these benefits and specific use cases for automation throughout key stages of the credit process.

Moody’s Analytics has also produced a video from a recent webinar related to this topic, which you can review here.

Five Steps to Improve Your Commercial Loan Origination


origination-3-17-17.pngToday’s business borrowers demand a lot more than just good rates. They expect to communicate with their lender via a variety of channels at a time that suits them. They are too busy running their own businesses to prepare thick files of financial information. And they want to deal with partners whom they regard as having a modern, world-class business model and technology stack.

Luckily, a new generation of automated loan origination technology can help community banks meet this challenge with greater efficiency and better customer service. Here are five steps to improve your loan origination process to meet the expectations of the new breed of borrowers.

1. Leverage new tech to boost efficiency.
Today’s credit origination software can integrate a bank’s customer relationship management (CRM) database with limit and exposure reporting in addition to spreading, risk rating, facility structuring, collateral management, and covenant monitoring. This streamlining can cut the time to fund a loan by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent, enhancing client service.

2. Raise the bar on transparency and consistency.
Many banks still employ manual processes and spreadsheets that result in inconsistent underwriting and lack of transparency. Modern loan origination systems standardize underwriting by putting consistent data on a common platform, where it’s available to staff who need it. The system also records each step in the lending process and generates an audit trail to facilitate compliance and internal audits.

3. Get the most out of your risk data.
Financial institutions generate vast amounts of client data, but most are not very good at managing it. How banks create, store, and make use of data, in particular risk data, will become more important with the advent of new regulation such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s risk data and reporting rule 239. Traditional issues such as duplicated, erroneous, and dirty data will all need to be addressed systematically to meet these new standards.

4. Make better decisions with a single source of truth.
The inability to identify risk concentrations for related borrowers was responsible for heavy losses during the financial crisis. Even today many banks still track positions with manually updated spreadsheets or adding up numbers from multiple systems. Having a 360-degree view of the credit relationship creates a golden record of client data under more accountable ownership.

5. Improve service and compete more effectively.
The success of so-called marketplace lenders is largely due to customer service models built on new technology and faster response times. Banks can improve service and competitiveness by harnessing the efficiency gains of a modern origination system. Faster response times yield not just greater efficiency but higher win rates too.

To download the full whitepaper, click here.

Is Your Loan Origination Process Too Slow?


loan-origination-11-3-16.pngOne of the biggest disruptors to the banking industry in the past several years has been the rise of technologically based financial technology, or the fintech industry. Fintech has brought a new wave of competition by finding more efficient ways to offer many of the same services as banks, including—most recently—lending. As the OCC points out in a recent whitepaper, banks and credit unions need to start thinking seriously about incorporating technology into more of their processes if they are to compete and effectively service customers. As fintechs continue to encroach on core banking services, banks will need to begin to find ways to strengthen and quicken loan origination processes.

According to a 2015 study from McKinsey & Company, 9 percent of fintech companies tracked in the study were making headway in the commercial lending space, an area which made up 7.5 to 10 percent of global banking revenues in 2015. For banks to keep pace, bank management has to ensure that their back-office systems and procedures for loan origination are designed for efficient growth and risk mitigation.

Speed
Technology is shortening processing time for loans, and banks and credit unions, in response, need to speed up their loan origination. Fast turnaround time is the currency of the digital age. Perhaps the most striking example of speed in the lending world is Rocket Mortgage, a Quicken Loans app that launched in a splashy 2016 Super Bowl TV ad that boasted minutes-long pre-approval decisions for mortgages.

In order to increase speed in lending, institutions should start by identifying the biggest bottlenecks in their current origination process. For many institutions, it is data collection and entry. Implementing technology like an online client portal for borrowers to upload documents makes it easier to track down all the required paperwork and allows the loan officer to work in digital instead of paper files. Technology can automatically read tax returns and reduce the time loan officers spend on manual data entry.

Of course, getting the data is only half the battle. The loan still needs to be analyzed, risk rated, priced and reviewed by a loan committee, and by using integrated software and standardized templates, the entire process is streamlined, which means getting back to the customer more quickly.

Defensibility
Another competitive disadvantage that banks and credit unions must overcome is the level of regulatory scrutiny placed on loan decisions. When building a competitive loan origination system, banks should focus on implementing processes that accurately identify credit risk and enable defensible, well documented credit decisions. Three key components of a defensible origination solution include:

  • Automated data entry and calculations to avoid manual error
  • Comprehensive documentation at each step
  • Templates for processes and calculations to ensure consistency and objectivity

Scalability
If an institution wants to process 100 more loans each year, they could hire more staff. Yet, a technology-based origination process also equips the institution to grow without increasing overhead costs and by better deploying staff to high-value activities. Platforms are available that realize time savings and better information flow, giving staff the tools needed to scale the institution.

The rise of fintech in recent years is indicative of the great potential efficiencies offered by technological innovations in banking, and progressive institutions are finding ways to lead this charge. To stay competitive with other institutions as well as fintech, banks and credit unions need to re-examine their back-office processes for loan origination to find ways to increase efficiency in loan origination. Banks can automate data entry and calculations, create consistency through templates for credit analysis, risk rating and loan pricing and prepare for audits and exams more easily with thorough documentation at each step. It prepares the institution to grow, remain competitive and better service its customers.

To learn more about technological solutions for your lending process, download the whitepaper “Tapping Growth Opportunities in the Business Loan Portfolio.”

On Your Mark….Loans Approved!


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Scene 1: Adam approaches a reputed bank in his city to get a quick loan to expand his restaurant. A month later, he is still waiting for a green light.

Adam tries his luck with a marketplace lender, and his application is cleared in minutes. The money is wired to his account in no time at all.

Scene 2: Stacy approaches her bank to get a loan to expand her digital marketing firm. She needs cash quickly. Although she is currently a customer of the bank, her loan application review process takes time.

She instead applies for a loan online with an alternative lender. Her application is processed and approved, and the money is wired to her account in the shortest possible time.

Here’s a wakeup call for the banking industry: Customer loyalty, which banks have relied on for so long, is now decidedly elusive.

Banks are getting hit by a triple whammy. First, increased regulations have made loan processing more complex, resulting in higher costs and reduced margins to originate loans. Second, banks’ legacy systems and manual processes lead to delays in loan processing and constrain banks from meeting the expectations of today’s connected consumers. Finally, digital disruption by alternative and marketplace lenders is putting pressure on banks, as customers now have other choices.

Coping with Increased Regulations
Regulatory oversight is increasing, be it recent guidance from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on prudent risk management for commercial real estate lending, or the upcoming current expected credit loss (CECL) model from the Financial Accounting Standards Board. How can banks cope with this new normal? By automating the loan origination process, banks can ensure that they are fully compliant, and at the same time improve their efficiency in originating the loan by cutting down on paper-intensive and manual steps. Banks should consider investing in loan origination software that not only meets current regulations but is also agile and flexible to incorporate future regulatory changes.

Improving the Origination Process
Legacy systems go by that name for a reason. They are built on old technology. These systems are expensive to maintain and hard to modify. Commercial loans contribute significantly to a bank’s business. Yet, due to outdated legacy technology, the loan origination process is largely manual, requiring duplicate data entry at multiple steps. To solve this, banks should consider investing in loan origination software that seamlessly integrates multiple disparate systems, such as document generation, spreading and credit bureaus. By doing this, banks can significantly cut down the time it takes to originate a loan, and meet the expectations of their customers.

Commercial loan origination software can help a bank streamline its commercial lending business. Here’s how:

  • The software seamlessly integrates with legacy and external systems.
  • It serves as a single application window to cater to multiple business lines, such as CRE loans, commercial & industrial loans, small business loans and leases.
  • It automates the commercial lending lifecycle from origination to disbursement to servicing, making processes paperless in an automated workflow environment with minimal manual intervention.
  • Loan requests are captured from multiple channels.
  • Credit scoring and underwriting of loans is efficient, due to seamless integration with third-party credit bureaus.
  • Automating and centralizing business rules allows quicker lending decisions.
  • Effective tracking and analysis of the loan process means the bank can better comply with regulations.

Imagine loan officers spending significantly less time reviewing loans. The end result is a more efficient process for the bank and, more importantly, happy customers.

Need to Grow? Try Data


growth-10-3-16.pngTo survive, a plant at a minimum needs soil, sunlight and water.

Plants that grow better than others have usually received fertilizer on a regular basis. Think of the vegetable garden that produces bushels of produce throughout the summer.

Farms that produce commercial volumes utilize all of these resources, but they also have someone directing strategy based on a big-picture view including weather forecasts, equipment maintenance needs, field reports on pests, research on future risks to the crop, etc.

Banks, too, can subsist on the basics: good staff, products that meet the market’s current needs and essential data about the customer or operations. These financial institutions may be able to get by without analyzing the tons of data in their systems. Other banks may “fertilize” their growth by analyzing some of their data to shape product development or efficiency processes.

However, even at these institutions, a common factor stunting growth is disconnectedness between analysts, teams and departments when it comes to day-to-day operational or regulatory information. Just as the data is siloed, so is the insight and communication, making it challenging to provide either top-down or bottom-up strategy reviews. When people from multiple departments try to piece together data from multiple systems, it can be nearly impossible to glean actionable insight for outpacing current and future competitors. This quandary is magnified at top management levels, where executives must balance strategic objectives and pressures without a data-driven big picture.

Indeed, bank CEOs, directors, chief information officers and chief technology officers responding to Bank Director’s 2016 Technology Survey recently overwhelmingly indicated their institutions are plagued by the inability to effectively use data.

Financial institutions using data over the life of a loan are better able to manage and direct the big picture, shaping institutional strategy for superior growth. They can help determine not only where the institution has been making money, but also where it can expect to make money, how it can maximize profits and how it can minimize risk.

For example, at an ill-equipped institution, loan pricing decisions may be based only on competitive information. While comparability of terms is important to borrowers, it can also lead the institution into a disadvantageous relationship—one that could lose money for the institution. However, at an institution using a life-of-loan system, the loan officer would have an accurate measure of risk and overall profitability of the relationship, providing the loan officer with a range of acceptable terms that still ensure the bank meets its targets. When decisions aren’t made in a vacuum or from a single lender’s spreadsheet, the bank benefits from better decisions, and when better decisions happen across the commercial portfolio, the institution wins.

In addition to pricing, an integrated solution streamlines and automates much of the:

  • loan origination process
  • credit analysis
  • loan approval
  • loan administration and
  • portfolio risk management.

Connecting the data throughout the entire loan process allows bankers, underwriters and risk management professionals to communicate better and more efficiently. These systems also tend to unify employees with diverse skills into a more cohesive unit while building in a layer of awareness and appreciation for the full life of the loan.

All of this enables the financial institution to make better lending decisions based on relationship profitability and strategic goals, and it makes it easier for management to make informed decisions that ensure outperformance—even in an environment where interest rates and loan demand remain low and compliance risks are high.

In short, an integrated solution addresses the three greatest business concerns cited in Bank Director’s Technology Survey: regulatory compliance, becoming more efficient and competition from other banks.

The intersection of insight provided through an integrated solution not only creates more opportunity to develop an effective strategy, it can also guide the strategy. It gives bank management the ability to pivot, and the knowledge of where best to pivot to, so that the institution can focus its investments, development and sales efforts on the right areas for growth. In this way, the financial institution can flourish, rather than simply survive.

Want to learn more about integrated banking solutions? Sageworks has a free guide for bank executives.